The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is It Weak to Be Gentle?
“A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all.”—2 TIMOTHY 2:24.
LONG before we are born, our developing skin becomes sensitive to touch. From birth we crave our mother’s tender caress. During childhood our tendency to smile, our ability to develop emotionally, and even our desire to master communication skills are influenced by the amount of affection we receive from our parents.
The Bible foretold, however, that during the last days, people would be “disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection.” Gentle qualities such as kindness and compassion would be sorely lacking, since men would be “lovers of themselves” and “fierce, without love of goodness.”—2 Timothy 3:1-3.
Many today feel a need to be tough and emotionally callous. They claim that being gentle is a sign of weakness. But is it?
Gentle, yet Powerful
Jehovah God is described as “a manly person of war.” (Exodus 15:3) He is the ultimate Source of all power. (Psalm 62:11; Romans 1:20) Yet, Jehovah’s strength did not prevent him from being “very tender in affection and merciful” when rewarding the faithful man Job. (James 5:11) In his dealings with Israel, Jehovah described the most tender of relationships by likening his feelings to those of a nursing mother who pities “the son of her belly.”—Isaiah 49:15.
Jesus likewise combined strength with gentleness. He forcefully denounced the hypocritical religious leaders of his day. (Matthew 23:1-33) He also vigorously drove the greedy money changers from the temple. (Matthew 21:12, 13) But did Jesus’ hatred of corruption and greed make him callous? Not at all! Jesus was known for being gentle with others. Indeed, he even likened himself to a mother hen that “gathers her brood of chicks under her wings.”—Luke 13:34.
Hard Shell or Inner Strength?
True Christians are encouraged to imitate Christ by putting on “the new personality which was created according to God’s will.” (Ephesians 4:20-24) We are told to “strip off the old personality with its practices,” just as a crab sheds its old shell so that it can grow. (Colossians 3:9) However, unlike a crab whose body soon hardens again after the old shell is discarded, we are commanded to clothe ourselves permanently with “the tender affections of compassion, kindness, . . . and long-suffering.” (Colossians 3:12) Gentleness, then, should characterize us.
Clothing ourselves with tender qualities is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it requires that we become “mighty in the man [we] are inside with power through [Jehovah’s] spirit.” (Ephesians 3:16) For example, a man named Lee says: “Not long ago I was a brutal, evil person. Even my appearance was threatening, since I had jewelry pierced into my body. I was determined to make a lot of money and would not hesitate to use foul language and violence to get my way. I had no compassion.” Nevertheless, Lee started to study the Bible with a workmate and came to know and love Jehovah God. He has stripped off his old personality and has learned to exercise self-control. Now he expresses his love for people by volunteering his time to help them study the Bible.
At one time the apostle Paul too was “an insolent man” who resorted to violence to achieve his goals. (1 Timothy 1:13; Acts 9:1, 2) Yet, when Paul came to appreciate the mercy and love shown him by Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, he responded by striving to imitate those qualities. (1 Corinthians 11:1) Although Paul stood firm for Christian principles, he learned to be gentle in his dealings with others. Indeed, Paul was uninhibited in expressing tender affection for his brothers.—Acts 20:31, 36-38; Philemon 12.
Gaining the Strength to Be Gentle
As the experiences of both Lee and the apostle Paul show, learning to deal gently with others does not require that one become weak in character. In fact, the opposite is true. It requires real strength to transform one’s thinking and actions and to fight the fleshly tendency to “return evil for evil.”—Romans 12:2, 17.
We too can learn to become tenderly compassionate by regularly reading God’s Word and meditating on the love and mercy that Jehovah God and his Son, Jesus Christ, have already extended to us. By doing so, we will allow the power of God’s Word to soften our hearts. (2 Chronicles 34:26, 27; Hebrews 4:12) No matter what our family background or how harsh our life experiences, we can learn to be “gentle toward all.”—2 Timothy 2:24.
[Picture on page 18]
A good father is gentle with his children